Teresa Sue Hilt

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Update: January 2013: $10,000.00 REWARD!!!
Important: A reward offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the 1973 murder of Teresa Sue “Tess” Hilt has increased to $10,000.00

We did it! There is renewed media interest in Tess’ cold case!

Teresa Sue “Tess” Hilt has been dead for so long that most Nodaway Countians may never even have heard of the young Northwest Missouri State University graduate student who was found brutally murdered in her Maryville apartment back in 1973.

The trail that investigators hoped for decades would lead them to the killer who committed one of Maryville, Missouri’s most sensational homicides has long since grown cold.

“Tess” was found on August 4, 1973, face down on her bed under a neatly arranged sheet. She had been strangled and stabbed in the chest and lower abdomen area. Her panty hose had been tied around her neck and her wrists bound with shoelaces. A paring knife taken from her own kitchen was found cupped in her hand.

A police investigator thought the killer must have been a woman. He noted the killer had cleaned up most of the blood from the apartment and had carefully covered the slain girl.

Hair particles found at the crime scene showed the one who left that hair had a rare scalp disease that makes the hair brittle and fall out. It is called monilethrix.

The killing made headlines in the long-defunct Kansas City Times and other newspapers across the state, but the killer vanished. To this day authorities are unsure if the murderer was a man or a woman.

Now, nearly 40 years later, an old classmate of Hilt’s has started looking for answers. Maryville Public Safety Director Keith Wood said this week that a former Northwest student named Michael Holmes, who lives in Kansas City, has decided to play amateur sleuth in an attempt to identify Hilt’s slayer.

Holmes has created a Facebook site (TeresaSueHilt TributePage) and is inviting anyone who may have information about the murder to tell him about it. The site, which claims thousands of hits, also advertises a $5,000 reward.

Wood said Holmes told him that his interest in the murder was rekindled after his wife asked how he was going to spend retirement. Holmes responded that he intended to “solve this homicide thing.”

Holmes’ Facebook page has captured the attention of a website that features stories about unsolved crimes: www.defrostingcoldcases.com. The site contains a series of links containing information about the killing and subsequent investigation.

In addition, the Kansas City Star is reportedly working on a story about Holmes’ efforts to revive the case.

As for Wood, the police chief said the case was already long cold when he came to Maryville in 1989. Still, he said, local peace officers have continued to work what few loose ends have emerged over the past two decades.

Wood and former MPS investigator Randy Strong even traveled to the FBI training facility in Quantico, Va., a while back to study profiling techniques and personality clues they hoped might lead them to the killer.

That effort, like those of dozens of peace officers over the decades, proved fruitless, and Wood said the case haunts him even though he was still a teenager living in Columbia when Hilt was killed.

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